Friday, 19 September 2008

Landmine survivors tell their story in pictures

Fairfax Media.

A free Red Cross photo exhibition telling the stories of Cambodian landmine survivors is in Parkes from October 2-5, as part of an AusAID-funded tour of Australia.

Around six million landmines were laid in Cambodia from 1978 until the end of 1989. Pailin, a Khmer district close to the Thai border, is one of the most heavily mined areas in the world.

Photographer Somira Sao, who escaped from Cambodia at age three with her parents, recently returned to her homeland with Red Cross to capture the stories of landmine survivors.

‘When I told people my story, they expressed genuine happiness that I had returned to understand their lives and my native country,’ says Somira.

The resulting photo exhibition aims to share with Australian audiences stories of landmine survivors in Cambodia, and to highlight the important joint work of AusAID and Australian Red Cross through the Landmine Survivor Assistance Program, which is funded by AusAID and managed by Australian Red Cross.

‘The landmine projects were painful and sad to witness. In Pailin, it was so disturbing to see how innocent people continue to be affected day-to-day by a war that is supposed to be over,’ she says.

Told in their own words, the interviewees’ stories consistently reflect the indiscriminate nature of explosive remnants of war and the harrowing impact they have on whole communities:

individuals and families, men and women, young and old people.

The exhibition explores how poverty, vocational and food insecurity affect people’s decisions to work in mined areas.

It highlights how, by tackling these issues, the program helps survivors break out of the poverty cycle so that they can live their lives with hope and dignity.

Australian Red Cross works closely with counterparts in the Royal Government of Cambodia, Cambodian Red Cross and other partners who are active in this important sector in Cambodia, to achieve the program’s goal to reduce the vulnerability of survivors of landmines and unexploded ordnance, their families and affected communities in Cambodia.

Opening in Cambodia in December 2007, the exhibition was launched in Canberra in April and is now travelling around Australia. It will be held in the Red Cross Rooms in Church Street.

The exhibition is free and open to all interested in understanding more about the tragic legacy of landmines and the work of Red Cross.

The exhibition will be officially opened on Wednesday evening.

Members of the public are invited to view this free exhibition at the following times:

Thursday, October 2 - 10am to 4pm
Friday, October 3 - 10am to 4pm
Saturday, October 4 - 10am to 4pm and
Sunday, October 5 - 11am to 1pm.

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